Distinguished Alumni Awards

Wake Forest honors Kendra Beard Graham ('85) and Mit Shah ('91) for their service to the University and commitment to Pro Humanitate.

Photography by Lyndsie Schlink

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Wake Forest and the Alumni Council named Kendra Beard Graham (’85) and Mit Shah (’91) to receive the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Awards. They were honored for their service to the University and for exemplifying Pro Humanitate at a gala in the Sutton Center April 19.

Mit Shah ('91) and Kendra Beard Graham ('85)

Kendra Beard Graham (’85)

Kendra Beard Graham fell in love with golf — and became an Arnold Palmer (’51, LL.D. ’70) fan — growing up in New Jersey. She came to Wake Forest to play golf for coach Marge Crisp, leading to a pioneering career overseeing and teaching the rules of golf and breaking down barriers for women golfers.

“Because of the education I received, the experiences I had, the friends I made, I’m the luckiest person in the world to have used Wake Forest as my springboard as I’ve gone on in life,” says Graham, who lives in Vero Beach, Florida, and is a past member of the Wake Forest Alumni Council.

Graham worked for the United States Golf Association in Rules and Competitions from 1987 until 2003. For the past 30 years, she has been a highly respected rules official at more than 50 men’s and women’s major championships and international competitions. She was one of the first women to work as an official at the Masters and the first American woman to officiate at The (British) Open Championship.

Alfred Adams ('68, JD '73, P '01), a previous recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, congratulates Kendra Beard Graham

She is on the USGA national committee and is a past member of the executive committee and past chair of the rules of golf committee. She has put her communication major to good use as a longtime instructor at PGA/USGA workshops. Retired Wake Forest Women’s Golf Coach Dianne Dailey calls Graham “probably the premier authority on rules in the world.”

A breast cancer survivor, Graham is an avid fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen organization and the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

A Fideles society member as a student, “I still think of this as home,” Graham says. “If I can shine a light on this great University in what I do, then that means a great deal to me.”

Kendra Beard Graham, her husband, Jack Graham, and their son, Justin Graham, and Olivia Shoemaker.

Watch videos of Kendra Beard Graham and Mit Shah.
The Distinguished Alumni Award has been given since 1959; list of recipients.

Mit Shah (’91)

Mit Shah grew up a mile from Wake Forest’s Reynolda Campus, in a neighborhood where cheering for the Demon Deacons was “kind of in your blood,” he recalls.

As the oldest child of immigrant parents, he chose Wake Forest for the “safety and security” of staying close to home and its pre-med track, but soon found himself drawn to economics, to learn “how the world works” and to the wisdom of Reynolds Professor of American Studies Maya Angelou (L.H.D. ’77). He recalls her telling the class that “people won’t remember what you said or what you did, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel,” he says.

Shah quickly applied those lessons as the founding CEO of Noble Investment Group LLC in Atlanta in 1993, only two years after he graduated. For three decades, Shah has led Noble to make more than $6 billion in hotel investments. He is widely recognized as an industry leader, one of the most influential South Asians in the United States and one of Atlanta’s most prominent business leaders.

Mit Shah and Rev. Michael Aiken ('71), who received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012.

Through his meteoric rise, Shah never neglected his support for Wake Forest. In addition to serving five terms on the board of trustees, he became a board member of the Roll the Quad collective and made the lead investment in 2017 for the $12 million Shah Basketball Complex, followed by a multimillion-dollar gift in 2023 to support scholarships and the fan and student experience at basketball games.

“This is home,” Shah says. “It’s always been home, it will always be home, and the fact that I grew up here and then I could also go to Wake Forest, it has a very special place in my heart.”

Mit Shah and his wife, Reshma Shah, with their children, Arjun Shah and Roshni Shah

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